Howard M. Metzenbaum U. S. Courthouse
This fine and historic structure in the heart of Cleveland’s downtown has been known over time as Old Federal Building and Courthouse, and the Federal Building and U. S. Courthouse. Its formal name since 1998 has been the Howard M. Metzenbaum U. S. Courthouse, in honor of the late Democrat and U. S. Senator Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio.
Located abutting Public Square’s eastern edge at 201 Superior Avenue, N. E., this Courthouse was, in 1911, the first structure to be completed as part of Cleveland’s 1903 Group Plan. That Plan, which codified City Beautiful principles as the blueprint for the growing city’s civic structures, malls and public plazas, was to eventually dictate the locations of the Courthouse, Cleveland Public Library, City Hall, Cuyahoga County Courthouse, Cleveland Board of Education, and other key facilities.
As anchors providing closure to the southern end of Cleveland’s Public Mall A —an expansive plaza with gardens and sculpture — the Courthouse and the adjacent Cleveland Public Library were to be similar in scale, massing, detail and general architectural style. That style, as with most other civic buildings of the period, was to be some form of Classical revivalism. The Courthouse’s designer, architect Arnold W. Brunner of New York, had earlier served on the Group Plan Commission with Daniel Burnham.
The five-story Beaux Arts Courthouse is modeled on grand Parisian civic structures of its day. Centered on its southern Superior Avenue façade is the building’s entrance, consisting of three rusticated stone arches, set originally with cast bronze doors and massive bronze lanterns in ornate brackets. Anchoring the extreme southeastern and southwestern corners of the building are two significant works of sculptor Daniel Chester French, ‘Commerce’ and ‘Jurisprudence’. From the balustraded parapet high above those sculptures, spread-wing eagles of carved stone stand sentinel.
Behind the main entrance is a great main lobby that traverses the length of the building in marble-clad splendor. Marble staircases wrap the east and west elevator banks, while —rendered in cast bronze — eagles atop globes spread their wings over pairs of elevator doors.
The exterior of the granite structure is highly articulated, incorporating a heavily rusticated building base, balustraded window sills, Corinthian columns, pilasters, carved keystones at window arches, pediments, carved shields, brackets, dormers and moldings. On the interior, select upper-floor corner offices are enhanced by sizable murals chronicling key events of Cleveland history.
By 1934, Cleveland’s main U. S. Post Office had moved from the Courthouse. Forty years later, the building was included in the National Register of Historic Places. With the completion of the Carl B. Stokes Federal Court House Building in 2002, there were significant changes in the occupancy and use of facilities within the Metzenbaum Courthouse. That year, a program of extensive rehabilitation and modernization was undertaken to prepare the Howard M. Metzenbaum U. S. Courthouse for use by new client agencies.
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